Winter is coming and it will bring all sorts of nightmarish weather conditions for drivers all around the country. It’s not just that we’ll drive in the dark more often, but the chances of heavy fog, freezing temperatures, icy roads and white blizzards are considerably higher.
So, naturally you want you and your car to be as prepared as possible for whatever the cold season brings your way. Keeping up with your regular car maintenance checks is important all year round, but it’s especially crucial to make sure everything is in tip-top condition just before we head into those last few months of the year.
Here is what you need to know about winter car checks and how they can help reduce the chances of breaking down in the midst of plummeting temperatures, rain or even snow.
Check your battery
Is your car winter ready? If you don’t know where to start, make checking your car’s battery the first thing on your list. Winter conditions put a big strain on a battery that already has to deal with lower temperatures. Add to that the increased reliance on lights and heating during the cold season, and you’ve got one of the most often cited reasons drivers call a breakdown service in the winter: battery failure.
The worst-case scenario is that you will have to jump-start the car yourself. You will need jump leads and a car with a battery in working condition. Make sure the two cars are lined up so that you can easily connect the two batteries. With all the electrics off, use the red jump lead to connect the positive terminal of the working battery to the positive terminal of the flat battery. Connect the black lead to the negative terminal of the working battery and clamp the other end to a piece of metal, well away from the fuel system or the battery. If your car has a designated earthing point, you can attach the black lead to it instead. Do not connect it to the negative terminal of your flat battery.
Once everything is connected wait 4-5 minutes, then start the car that has a working battery and let its engine run for approximately 1 minute. You can then start the car that has the flat battery and let both cars run for 5 minutes. If your car is not starting, don’t worry. Wait a couple of minutes and try again.
Once the car starts, leave both cars running together for 10 minutes and then start removing the leads without touching any metal surfaces. Begin with the black lead (the end attached to the car with the flat battery first, then the end attached to the working battery) and continue with the red lead.
If your car still won’t start after a few attempts, the problem might not be limited to the battery only. The best thing to do is call your breakdown service and ask for their help.
Inspect the tyres
The pressure and tread depth of your tyres should be next on your winter car checklist. Tyres that are in poor condition are extremely dangerous on wet or icy roads where better grip is needed. The minimum tyre thread depth in the UK is 1.6mm, but you can usually aim for double the depth during harsh winters. So, make sure your tyres are winter-ready and if you want to be extra cautious, you can also invest in winter tyres. This way your car is less likely to struggle in snow or ice.
Check coolant & antifreeze levels
One of the largest repair bills drivers usually receive has to do with engine damage. Over-heating is a risk throughout the year, so it’s important to get into the habit of regularly checking the levels of coolant or antifreeze and top them up accordingly.
Check your lights and indicators
We rely a lot more on our car’s electric system in the winter, and lights are a big part of it. So, the next item to add to the winter car checklist is making sure that all the lights are clean and working as expected. And don’t forget to check the fog lights too!
Remember that driving with faulty lights is against the law and extremely dangerous.
Windscreen wipers should be in working condition
It’s important to make sure you have good visibility no matter the weather conditions. This is why your windscreen wipers have a big job to do this winter. Check their ability to clean your screen, the wiper fluid level, as well as the overall condition of your windscreen.
Check the oil level
You’re probably already familiar with the importance of keeping oil at the right level throughout the year. Failure to do so can result in major car engine problems and quite a hefty bill. Driving in winter conditions means that you need to pay extra attention to the oil in your car. Technicians can sometimes recommend a different type of oil for the winter time, so make sure you’re using the best oil for your car and that it’s kept topped up throughout the cold months.
Don’t forget the heating system
Car journeys in lower temperatures are not a problem if your heating system works as it should and can quickly turn into a nightmare if you discover that something is wrong just as you’re about to drive off. A good tip is to turn your heating on before you actually need it to make sure it’s all working well. If you notice any issues, you’ll have plenty of time to get them fixed before the temperatures start to plummet.
Check the brakes
Brakes should be at the top of your checklist all year long. But when it comes to a winter car check, there are few things more important than making sure you’ve got a braking system you can rely on. Remember that the braking power you need in the winter is not the same as during the rest of the year. So, get your technician to check that everything is working as it should before the colder months of the year.
Anti-lock brakes are especially useful when the roads are covered in snow or ice as it will prevent the car from skidding while maintaining steering control. If you want to discover more about anti-lock breaks (ABS) including what they are and how they work, check out our quick guide.
Fill up your fuel tank
Unsurprisingly, fuel has also made it on our winter car checklist. Poor weather conditions, journeys taking longer than expected due to busier roads and the constant starting and stopping when peak rush hour hits and you’re stuck in traffic – all this means your car will rely on more fuel to get you through the day during the winter. So, make sure your car is topped up before setting off on your journey.
Invest in a good emergency breakdown kit
There’s nothing better than a complete breakdown kit to get you out of trouble in the winter. From torches to blankets and shovels, a good winter emergency kit has it all and it should always be in your car during the cold months. Don’t forget to add a few drinks and food supplies as well, just in case. Winter weather can be quite unpredictable at times, so it’s best to be prepared in case the journey home takes longer than anticipated.
Now you’ve got a good list to get you started with your winter car check. Don’t forget to make sure you’re up to date with your MOT as well.
Next, find out more about MG Braking and Driving Assistance features and how they can help improve your driving experience in all seasons, winter included.More Articles